Highway to Hana with Children: OverviewDecember 12, 2010 6 Comments
I’ll start out with this caveat: if you have a child who gets easily car sick, this twisting, scenic Maui road may not be for you; but the keyword is “easily”. The road may have plenty of twists and turns, but they are gentle, and you’ll be going slowly. You’ll also be making plenty of stops to admire the scenic beauty and take pleasant, easy-for-kids strolls through this lush green side of the island. We had no problems at all, and found warnings about the difficulty of the drive completely unfounded.
Hana is truly its own destination, all rain forest, water falls, pristine beaches and lovely blue ocean pools. This part of Maui gets over ninety inches of rain annually, so no wonder you’ll see plenty of wild flowers like plumeria and ginger in constant bloom. Along the road your children will be able to spot many beautiful trees and blossoms. You’ll also find fun road-side honor stands that allow you to buy your own bouquets and fresh fruits and just leave your cash in the money box. Our kids loved stopping to get do-it-yourself snacks – homemade cookies, mangos, papayas, pineapple, and coconut chunks.
While you can easily traverse Hana highway in a single day, it’s even more pleasurable if you explore it in small chunks. Only sixty miles long, it will take about three hours to drive with frequent stops included, and it is truly all about the journey – as well as a beautiful destination.
You’ll start in the small, funky town of Paia Maui, where there are charming boutique stores and plenty of restaurants to pick up some food to go. The last stop for food is the Maui Grown Market about seven miles outside of Paia, where you can get sandwiches, fruit, and a potty stop. In Paia proper you’ll find choices ranging from a crepe restaurant – with excellent veggie crepes – to sandwiches and full meals. There are also gas stations to fill your rental vehicle’s tank if necessary. You’ll end your journey either with a return trip through Paia or a night’s stay at the Hotel Hana’s lovely if expensive cottages, or in a condo by the sea. Hana itself is a quiet, pretty small town which has its own gentle, swimmable bay, a small cultural center and museum and the Hasegawa General Store, a Maui staple with its odds and ends of sometimes exotic merchandise for picnic lunches.
If you zero out your odometer in Paia, you’ll find a lovely half mile nature trail through ferns and lush bamboo forest at the roadside Waikamoi Ridge Trail, about .6 miles past mile marker 9. Overlooks of splendid valleys and curving hills, picnic tables, and an easy ramble await you along the trail.
Another easy walk is inside the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden at mile marker 10½. Our kids loved exploring the flowers and folliage here on well marked, gentle paths. You’ll learn a lot about the native plants, too.
At Kaumahina State Wayside Park, a bit beyond mile marker twelve, you’ll find lovely views of the wild ocean coast, a sheltered picnic spot and that all important road-travel necessity for small children, restrooms.
We also enjoyed a good look at Honomanu Bay two miles further along, which has a stunning black sand beach.
All along the road in this part of the drive you’ll see and be able to simply pull over to the side of the road to experience up close, many small water falls. Larger falls are visible from a distance, or if you’re up for the walk and your little ones are either backpack portable or able to hold your hand along flat but sometimes muddy trails, you can see the falls up close. We found Puohokamoa Stream at mile marker eleven a good stop for a walk to the falls.
More easy trails lasting only about fifteen minutes and with stellar coast line views are found at the Keanae Arboretum at around mile market sixteen. There’s a small Hawaiian village and a lovely old missionary church at Keanae Village a mile further along. You can walk down a gentle gravel road for a closer look at a small, pretty waterfall.
A tourist mecca to be sure, the so-called Half Way to Hana Store, Uncle Harry’s Fruit Stand, is another good purveyor of clean restrooms and fruit-related, fresh Hawaiian snacks. When we passed by there was a band playing Hawaiian music and an outdoor grille set up offering shrimp, kailua pork, and vegetable sandwiches, too.
Our favorite overlook was just one mile further along, the Wailua Valley viewpoint. Here you can view a beautiful patchwork of green land and ocean. The next must-stop is at the Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park just beyond mile marker twenty two. Our kids loved the small stream here, perfect for pitching rocks, and an easy-to-see small waterfall with a small wading pool around it. This was a great leg-stretcher with lots of beautiful ferns and flowers growing wild around the stream.
Crowded with tourists, we didn’t stay nearly as long at the justifiably famous black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park, ten miles further down the road at mile marker thirty-two. There is a cave that’s fun to explore, and the path to it, though a bit steep, is very easy to traverse. This park draws a large crowd though, and is probably the main stop for tourists en route to the town of Hana.
And that’s your next stop, Hana Ranch, where once sugar cane and then cattle were raised. Tourism shares the land today along with today’s cattle rearing industry on a portion of the property. You’ll love the spacious, beautifully appointed free standing rooms of the Hotel Hana, but the prices are high. We opted instead to rent a condo near the bay. We enjoyed strolling the grassy meadow land of the hotel property though, and the hotel restaurant offers a bountiful breakfast with a gorgeous blue-ocean view.
While interesting trails will lead you to red and black sand beaches, they’re not geared for small children. Hana Bay’s white sand beach is easy to access, calm, and pretty. Hamoa Beach, also soft white sand, is about a mile and a half on the far side of Hana, and also easy to access.
As beautiful as the destination of Hana is, we loved the drive and the many scenic stops en route best of all, and we’ll bet your family does, too.